Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Turkey, Apple and Bacon Sandwich with Cranberry Aioli

My previous understanding of the term 'aioli' was basically that it meant 'fancy mayo'.  To find out more, I went to my trusty food-informant (the world wide web) and it seemed I wasn't the only one who was curious about the difference between the two condiments.

What I learned is that purists would consider a traditional aioli to be an emulsion of garlic, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil, ground and combined with a mortar and pestle.  No exceptions, no substitutions.

Then, classic French aioli took the traditional recipe and added a single ingredient, egg yolk.  The result is what we would call garlic mayonnaise.  The addition of the egg yolk significantly increased the emulsion power and now, thankfully, because the egg emulsion isn't as delicate as the garlic-only emulsion, the ingredients can be whisked by hand or with an electric blender.  Remove the garlic from this recipe and we have good ol' fashioned mayo.

These days, aioli, as a popular term, is being used interchangeably to refer to any of these three recipes.  This shift in the use of the term can be confusing.  Does the aioli contain garlic?  Does it contain egg?  Is it really just store bought mayo?

We also have variations on aioli where new ingredients are added for flavor.  For example, we might find chipotle aioli or this recipe's cranberry aioli.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Martin Cooks - Brunch

I have been really wanting to get to Martin Cooks for a while.  The price point for their tasting-menu-style dinner, $65 per person + $40 to add wine pairings, for me means it would be a special occasion dinner.  Special occasions have come and gone but for one reason or another I hadn't made the trek yet.  That didn't stop me from torturing myself by reading their menu offerings which are posted on the website as they change each week and I'm telling you: I couldn't wait to get there.

On Sunday, the stars aligned.  I actually stumbled into this place accidentally.  

I tagged along to Horsefeathers' Winter Market with two of my friends and as we drove past the building looking for parking I saw the signage in the window for Martin Cooks.  I think I may have audibly squealed with excitement. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Homemade Yogurt and Maple Granola

My parents tell me this story about when I was 4 years old.  On this particular day all the kids at daycare were being given ice cream as a special treat.  Seriously, what is more exciting to a child than ice cream?  I think the answer is nothing.  So the story goes that we were all given our ice cream and when I took my first bite I got a huge smile on my face and yelled "yogurt!".  It turns out, the staff was verbally disguising the yogurt as "ice cream" to trick the kids into eating it.  I was thrilled.  The other kids started crying.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Sous-vide Flank Steak with Red Wine Sauce and Gorgonzola Powder

I love slow cooked meats and the seemingly magical way that a tough cut can be broken down into tender juicy bites.  Smoked, braised, roasted, sous-vided.  (Sous-vided... that is the past tense of sous-vide, right?)

The sous-vide machine is essentially a hot water bath.  Food is vacuum sealed in plastic and submerged in water held at a specified temp.  For example, a medium rare steak is ~135 degrees.  When I cook this flank steak, I set the water temp to 135.  The steak cooks at this temperature for 8 hours.  Because this temperature of the water is the final temperature of the meat, there is practically zero chance of overcooking the food. (However, if left long enough, those proteins will denature so much that you will have meat mush.  Mmm...)

The sous-vide machine has been a lot of fun to play around with.  Before using it for this steak (135 degrees), it's been used to hold homemade yogurt at a steady temp while it ferments overnight (112 degrees), used to cook pork belly (180 degrees) and used to make egg yolk croquettes (144 degrees).  It's been fun discovering different uses for the machine and learning why the cooking temperature and time varies for different foods.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Raspberry Pancakes with Almond Powder and Ricotta Stuffed Raspberry

I know, I know, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  But during the week I do not drag my body out of bed early enough to make breakfast.  On work days I'm more of a brush teeth, brush hair, run out the door kind of gal.  

It's different on the weekends though.  For weekend breakfasts I love playing around making a variation of pancakes, eggs, french toast or oatmeal.

For now let's talk pancakes.

What's the best fruit in a pancake?  Blueberry?  Raspberry?  Banana?  Something else?  This recipe combines raspberries, almonds and dark grade B maple syrup to keep things simple, but jazz up the flavors of a basic pancake breakfast.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


My visit to Curly's last week wasn't just for dinner.  My girlfriend, Ellen, is getting married later this year and she was pumped to check out Curly's as an option for her reception.  The rooms were nice, the meal options sounded delicious and the dance floor was real hard wood (perfect for the breakdancing I'll be busting out at the wedding).  But, when you're planning a special event, you seriously can't beat that feeling of clicking with the banquet manager.  

We met with Scott who was knowledgeable, patient, friendly and flexible.  Even if Ellen didn't already have a little love for Lackawanna (where she lived in her first apartment), and a lotta love for Curly's food, meeting with Scott sealed the deal and made us all feel like she would be in great hands.  She's going to have an amazing wedding!

Now let's eat dinner.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Lemon Cheesecake and Blackberry Dessert Sauce

"Some people think destiny is something you cannot escape, such as death or a curdled cheesecake, both of which always turn up sooner or later." - Lemony Snicket
I have to be honest, I was nervous to tackle a cheesecake.  With this recipe, some research on the the concept and I think a little beginner's luck, I had really good results. 

All this talk about a soggy crust.  I found pages and pages of threads discussing how to avoid soggy crusts.  It's a sensible question, we're literally putting a non-watertight pan into a water bath.  Cooking in the waterbath allows the cheesecake to heat evenly and more importantly to cool slowly which will help prevent cracking on the top of the cake.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Olive Bread Crouton

My dad makes great bread.  It's soft and spongy with just a hint of sweet.  A good sandwich can be made even better with great bread.  Egg sandwiches are my absolute favorite food and the anticipation of my Saturday egg sandwich breakfast is a large part of the reason (though not the entire reason) that I look forward to the weekend.  

I have eaten so so so many egg sandwiches, but my very favorite version is on day-old dad-bread with prosciutto and Dubliner cheddar.  It's a rare treat because dad typically only makes his bread for Thanksgiving or my birthday and then I have to hope that it doesn't all get devoured at dinner* and that there are some leftover slices I can take home with me.  Come to think of it, he and I should have a chat about the frequency of his breadmaking...

I digress.  This recipe is for my olive bread, not dad-bread.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Cucumber Salad, Balsamic Caviar and Fried Camembert

Looking through the pictures as I've been writing about each of the courses from the murder mystery dinner has been a reminder of how much fun I had planning and preparing all the dishes.  It's like I can re-live the night, in a way, which is the reason I really started this blog in the first place. 

One of the more fun projects for the dinner was this balsamic 'caviar'.  It looks impressive and with the right tools, some simple instructions and a few tips, it's so easy to make.  This would definitely be a fun project with kids (and with fruit flavored jello).  The result would be like jello dip'n'dots. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Brussels Sprout, Pork Belly and Apple Skewer

It's an undeniable truth of the universe that people who don't like brussels sprouts just haven't tried this recipe yet.  

Food can be prepared so many different ways.  Variations in method of cooking, such as steamed or roasted, the addition of sweet, savory or spicy seasonings and the incorporation of other ingredients for texture or flavor all affect the final taste of a dish.

For example, I would prefer my salad without olives.  But I love olive bread and I love olive tapenade.  Doug's brother likes split pea soup but he doesn't like to just have peas.  I'm sure everyone can think of an example like this.  And the reason for like versus dislike may be just a difference in the food's preparation.  When someone says that they don't like a food, I always like to know how they've had it prepared because sometimes it's not the food, it's the packaging.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Trattoria Aroma - Main Street - Dessert

Trattoria Aroma on Main is my go-to restaurant.  It's conveniently located close to my house, they have great daily specials and I love the atmosphere at the bar.  There's always someone to strike up a conversation with and Joe, the bartender, is friendly and attentive.  And he really knows his wine.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Chicken and Quinoa

I have always liked to eat cauliflower.  My gramma, since I was little, or probably before that, has always had bite size pieces of fresh cauliflower in a bowl in the fridge.  And when I discovered roasted cauliflower it was love at first bite.